The body is a complex system made up of various elements that operate symbiotically. Within each part of the body, there are many different things working together to keep you healthy. For example, the cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, blood vessels, and blood; the heart muscle pumps blood throughout the body using blood vessels to ensure that the cells within the blood can carry oxygen to the tissues and other organs. Cells within the blood are also tasked with other jobs as they use the bloodstream to make their way around.
This is just one example of how different parts of the body function together, and thus rely heavily on one another to ensure optimal health. When it comes to the immune system and its function, various different facets of the body are involved to make sure you’re protected from viruses, bacteria, and any other type of pathogen that may invade your body.
The immune system itself is made up of special organs, both specialized and non-specialized cells, and other chemicals. The main components include white blood cells, antibodies, the spleen, the thymus, the bone marrow, the complement system, and the lymphatic system. Molecules called peptides may also play a role in immune health – but what are peptides, exactly? And are peptides part of the immune system?
Peptides are naturally occurring molecules that are similar to proteins, only smaller in size. Outside the body, peptides are also artificially processed to be used in many cosmetic and health-focused products because of their alleged benefits, such as anti-aging capabilities, anti-inflammatory properties, and muscle-building abilities.
Peptides are often confused with proteins because the two are made up of amino acids, which are organic compounds that contain certain chemicals to be used and combined to form proteins in the body. However, although the two are both made from amino acids, peptides do not contain as many amino acids as proteins do.
Peptides can be found in food sources such as:
Research surrounding the health benefits of peptides has been largely focused on bioactive peptides. When supplements or cosmetics are created using peptides, they are often taken from the aforementioned sources.
Peptides are easier for the body to absorb and break down because of their smaller size. They can also penetrate the skin as well as the intestines more easily. Because of this, they are able to make it into the bloodstream faster than proteins are.
There are various types of peptides, all of which have their own proposed health benefits. For example, collagen peptides are thought to be beneficial for skin health. They are also viewed as helpful aids in anti-aging products. Creatine peptides, on the other hand, have been seen to help build both strength and muscle mass in humans.
Other benefits that may be attached to the use of peptides include:
Research has also found that peptides may be able to improve immune function.
Studies have found that certain peptides can act as immunomodulators. This means that taking peptides may help to regulate how the immune system functions, thus improving how it reacts to certain pathogens and mitigating overreaction that can drive widespread inflammation throughout the body.
It’s thought that peptides have this ability because of the way the immune system reacts to proteins. When a pathogen enters the body, the T-cells of the immune system become activated. These T-cells require several different proteins to be able to signal properly, because the amino acids that reside on the surfaces of protein cells help the immune cells in their actions. Peptides mimic the action of these proteins, and therefore help to modulate the immune system’s response.
Peptides also have the ability to stimulate an immune response. Because of this, peptides may be able to add an extra layer of protection against cancer and other diseases. When peptides act as proteins, modulate the immune system, and stimulate it when appropriate, the molecules are working in a way that ensures the body’s immune function is where it needs to be.
In terms of peptides and the action of antibodies, research has found that they could actually act similarly. Antibodies form in response to a pathogen and are designed to rid the body of cells that are causing disease. Peptide-based drugs lack certain structures that antibodies have – structures that can often make them unstable. Because of this, peptides can simply act the same as an antibody but remain far more stable.
While research is still ongoing when it comes to peptides and how they affect the immune system, there is enough viable evidence to show that peptides are promising molecules in the fight against weakened immunity and chronic disease.